Diversity Education

Black History and Anti-racism in Canada

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Introduction

Captain Richard Pierpoint, United Empire Loyalist painting

Captain Richard Pierpoint, United Empire Loyalist
Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.

Source of Illustration: Malcolm Jones, 2005
(Canadian War Museum, 1.E.2.4-CGR2). Canadian War Museum. Gallery 1: Wars on Our Soil, earliest times to 1885. Accessed 1 Sept. 2020.
Source of Text: Zach Parrott, “Richard Pierpoint.” Canadian Encyclopedia, 6 Oct. 2016. Accessed 1 Sept. 2020.

Our society is composed of people from diverse linguistic and cultural origins. It is important that all Manitobans have some basic knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the richness of our human diversity, our roots and our peoples’ stories. It is equally important to know and understand how issues of contemporary racism and inequality are rooted in our history.

Black history is Canadian history. It is an essential piece of the Canadian “story.” It gives us insights into and an understanding of how Canadian and North American societies were formed and how they “work” today. As Canadians work and struggle to build a better society, knowing and appreciating Black history is vitally important. Black history is played out every day in the lives of our friends and neighbours.

Black history in Canada is also one of exclusion, and marginalization or racism at various points in time. Thus, Black history is important because it is a history of resistance, resiliency, and hope even in the face of impossible odds. Black history is about social justice, freedom, and the love of humanity. Black history inspires us even when we are frustrated by what seem to be the slow and painful steps that progress takes.

Black History in Manitoba

Manitoba did not have a large Black or African presence until after the changes in the immigration laws in Canada removed some of the more racist barriers to Black immigration. Nevertheless, there has been a Black presence in Manitoba since the early fur trading days of the province.

The Black population of Manitoba and of the Canadian West grew slowly during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with most migrating from the United States. One of the first and best-documented Black people to migrate to and settle in Manitoba was William S. A. Beal, a.k.a. Billy Beal. Beal arrived in the Swan River region in 1906 and dedicated his life to building his community.

Winnipeg was the gateway for Black immigration to the West from Oklahoma and for others fleeing discrimination in the United States. By 1909, hundreds of Black people from Oklahoma had moved to the Canadian Prairies, where they sadly often encountered the same racial prejudices and discrimination that had allowed slavery to exist in Canada in earlier times. In February of 1911, a few newspapers in Winnipeg even predicted that the Dominion government would move to exclude “Negro immigrants."

Pilgrim Baptist Church in Winnipeg opened circa 1923 and was located near the CPR railway. It soon became an important social and cultural centre for Winnipeg’s emerging Black community, members of which mostly found employment on the railways at this time. Pilgrim Baptist Church continues to be an important part of the Black community in Manitoba.

A self-portrait by William (Billy) Beal photo

A self-portrait by William (Billy) Beal, a Black settler who arrived in Swan Lake, MB, in 1906

Image source:  Robert Barrow. Used with permission.

Over time, Black people of various origins, religions, cultures, and backgrounds have made Manitoba their home. The Black community in Manitoba now is increasingly diverse and composed of families and individuals of many origins and backgrounds ranging from early settlers to more recent immigrants from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin and South America, and other places. According to the 2016 Census of Canada, Manitoba had a “Visible Minority” population of 216,850 persons, representing about 17.5% of the population. Of the visible minority population of Manitoba, approximately 30,335 people self-identified as Black.

  • Engaging in Critical/Courageous Conversations on Race and Racism
  • Black History in Manitoba’s Curricula
  • Black History Month
  • The International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024)
  • Black History Resources
  • Black History Books for Children and Youth
  • Canadian Black History Internet Resources
  • International Black History Internet Resources
  • Anti-racism Resources
  • Books on Anti-racism Education
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Engaging in Critical/Courageous Conversations on Race and Racism

Creating Racism-Free Schools through Critical/Courageous Conversations on Race cover

Indigenous Peoples, Black Peoples, and Peoples of Colour have a shared history of experiencing racism, marginalization, and exclusion in Canada and in many other nations. It is important to recognize the multi-faceted nature of racism in our past and today. While Indigenous Peoples, Black Peoples, and Peoples of Colour have experienced and continue to experience racism that is similar in many ways, in other ways the racism experienced by Indigenous Peoples in Canada is unique. Colonialism, the Indian Act, and the residential school system, for example, have created a “dual track” of racism that is distinct among First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people.

To support educators, schools, parents, and the community in studying and discussing the impact of race and racism with respect to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in schools, Manitoba Education published the support document Creating Racism-Free Schools through Critical/Courageous Conversations on Race (2017). It is intended to encourage and assist school divisions, schools, teachers, parents, and students to undertake critical and courageous conversations on racism to create more inclusive and equitable classrooms and schools for First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and Black students, as well as all other students. The document provides an overview of the history of discrimination in Canada with respect to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians and the need to address the lingering effects of that racism on our society and nation. It describes the nature and effects of racism, acknowledges our history of racism, stimulates dialogue through critical and courageous conversations, and works toward achieving the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

Black History in Manitoba’s Curricula

Firsts: Black Elected Officials and Representatives of the Queen
Michelle Jean
Michaëlle Jean
Lincoln Alexander
Lincoln Alexander
Uzoma Asagwara
Uzoma Asagwara
Audrey Gordon
Audrey Gordon
Jamie Moses
Jamie Moses
Markus Chambers
Markus Chambers

These six Black Canadians made history by being “first” in several categories of elected or appointed officials nationally or in Manitoba, breaking colour barriers that had existed in Canada’s parliament, legislatures, and councils. From left to right they are as follows:

  • In 2005, Michaëlle Jean became the first Black Canadian appointed the Governor General of Canada.
  • In 1965, Lincoln Alexander became the first Black member of Canada’s Parliament. In 1979, he became Canada’s first Black cabinet minister when he was appointed Minister of Labour, and in 1985, he became the first Black lieutenant-governor in Canada.
  • In 2019, Uzoma Asagwara, Audrey Gordon, and Jamie Moses collectively became the first Black Canadians elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. In January of 2021, Audrey Gordon with her appointment as Minister of Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery, made history becoming Manitoba’s first Black cabinet minister.
  • In 2018, Markus Chambers became the first Black Canadian elected to Winnipeg City Council.

Image Sources:
Michaëlle Jean: “Biography.” Michaëlle Jean, Accessed 8 Sept. 2020.
Lincoln Alexander: Lisa Cimini. “9 Things You Might Not Know about ‘Linc’.” McMaster University Daily News, 19 Jan. 2015, Accessed 8 Sept. 2020.
Uzoma Asagwara, Audrey Gordon, and Jamie Moses: “Photographs of Members: 42nd Legislature.” The Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Accessed 8 Sept. 2020.
Markus Chambers: Home page. Markus Chambers, City Councillor. Accessed 8 Sept. 2020.


Manitoba Education recognizes the need for an inclusive curriculum to challenge discrimination and racism and to advance equity. It acknowledges the need to cover more fully and accurately the histories of marginalized groups, such as Black Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, and People of Colour.

The web page “Elements Integrated into the Curriculum” was designed to ensure that diversity is addressed in the curriculum. This has influenced the development of the social studies, the arts education, and the new English language arts curricula, all of which provide opportunities to learn about diversity, social justice issues, and human rights education, including the histories and aspirations for justice of Black Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, and Peoples of Colour.

Black History in Social Studies

Citizenship a Core Concept

Citizenship is a core concept in the social studies curricula, and the mandatory learning outcomes in human rights education are designed to develop knowledge of the diverse peoples of Canada and the world, and to develop an understanding of our rights and responsibilities as citizens.

The Kindergarten to Grade 8 Social Studies curriculum provides students with the opportunities to explore how Canadian society has developed, beginning with the Indigenous Peoples, through the colonial era, to present-day Canada. Students explore the diverse peoples and changing composition of Canadian society. The impact of slavery on North America and elsewhere is addressed in the curriculum and the impact of racism on Canada and the global community is a key aspect of the exploration of the Active Democratic Citizenship component of the curriculum.

Grade 9 Social Studies: Canada in the Contemporary World focuses on clusters of Diversity and Pluralism in Canada, Democracy and Governance in Canada, and Opportunities and Challenges. The impact of racism and inequality in Canadian society is explored throughout the curriculum. The topics of Building a Just Society and Citizenship Participation are explored in depth.

Grade 12 Global Issue: Citizenship and Sustainability poster

Grade 11 History of Canada emphasizes issues related to Equity and Diversity in a Pluralistic Society. It addresses the history of Indigenous Peoples, Black Peoples, and Peoples of Colour Peoples and the effects of racism. Topics covered specifically with respect to Black history include Black United Empire Loyalists, the immigration of Blacks before and during the American Civil War, recent immigration from Africa and other nations, and the struggle for equity and human rights.

The Grade 12 Global Issues: Citizenship and Sustainability course has several areas of inquiry relevant to Black Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, and Peoples of Colour, including the following:

The Grade 12 Cinema as a Witness to Modern History course provides an excellent vehicle for exploring systemic racism in policing and in society in general through film. The course guide offers excellent suggestions on choosing topics and films. The theme of systemic racism in policing and more broadly in society aligns with the topics of Oppression and Resistanceand Social Transformation.

Exploring Issues of Race and Racism in Grade 12 Cinema as a Witness to Modern History

An annotated list of a number of contemporary films that deal with specific incidents or events related to Black Lives Matter, race, and racism in policing in North America and beyond follows. These are examples of films that could be used to study this theme through the Grade 12 Cinema as a Witness to Modern History course.

13th by director Ava DuVernay (2016) is an original documentary that argues how slavery, which was supposedly abolished by the 13th Amendment to the U.S.A. Constitution, has been carried on in the U.S. through the prison system.

Atlanta by Donald Glover (2016–2020) is an American comedy-drama television series that focuses on Earnest “Earn” Marks, a college dropout who takes charge of his cousin Alfred Miles’s  rap career as “Paper Boi,” and follows the two as they navigate the Atlanta rap scene. They do so while facing social and economic challenges based on race, relationships, status, and parenthood. Glover's Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series was the first ever awarded to an African American, and his work as the series’ writer and executive producer has received praise.

Beyond Moving by director Vikram Dasgupta (2019) is a documentary that retraces the remarkable journey of Siphe November, who left his small township in South Africa to follow his dreams at Canada’s National Ballet School. There the young dancer pushes the limits of his talents, intensively trains, and eventually soars on stages around the world. He accomplishes this while navigating family relationships back home, trying to reflect on what it means to be a Black ballet dancer, and trying to figure out how to give back to the community that raised him. Beyond Moving is an uplifting and inspiring story that reveals deeply personal aspects of family, prejudice, expectation, loss, and resilience.


Developing Empathy and Understanding through Cinema

“Cinematic depictions of history often deal with human tragedies that include violence, war, inhumanity, cruelty, racism, injustice, and suffering. Such portrayals, explored with care and preparation, may serve as a means for helping students develop empathy and understanding, rather than being simply an act of viewing stories on film.”

From Grade 12 Cinema as a Witness to Modern History: A Foundation for Implementation, page 19.

BlacKkKlansman by director Spike Lee (2018) is a film based on actual events. The film is a semi-fictionalized story of Ron Stallworth, the first Black American police officer in the Colorado Springs, Colorado, police department, who works undercover to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a fellow Jewish police officer who acted as a surrogate and who eventually becomes its leader.

Clemency by director Chinonye Chukwu (2019) is an intensely moving film that follows prison warden Bernadine Williams whose years of supervising death row executions have damaged her life and her marriage. Before carrying out one more execution of an inmate, Bernadine finds herself confronted by the deep emotional and psychological damage the job has done, as she figures out what that means for her future. The film was inspired by the true story of Troy Davis, born in Georgia, who was executed despite his claim of innocence for 20 years, serious doubts about his conviction, and appeals from world figures.

Coded Bias by Shalini Kantayya (2020) is a documentary that explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s disturbing and surprising discovery of racial bias in facial recognition algorithms. The algorithms discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender, and even ability. They are not regulated in the U.S. A. and therefore, they can be frequently, widely, and freely used in predatory ways to exploit the poor and vulnerable. As a result, they reduce social progress, create unwelcome influence (in hiring practices, college admission, and advertising, for example), and even have profound implications in law enforcement.

Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee (1989), a film produced by, directed by, written by, and starring Spike Lee, is a powerful portrait of contemporary urban life in the United States. The film explores how race, class, and morality played out and led to violence on one block in the Brooklyn, New York, neighbourhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant on the hottest day of the year.

Fruitvale Station by director Ryan Coogler (2012) is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, 22, a convicted African American drug dealer trying to go straight. His life ends New Year’s Day, 2009, when he is fatally shot at the Fruitvale train station by a Bay Area transit police officer. The film is a Sundance Film Festival award–winner.

Journey to Justice by Roger McTair (2002) is a documentary that pays tribute to a number of Canadians who took racism to court. The six individuals featured—some of Canada’s unsung heroes from the 1930s to the 1950s in the fight for equality and Black civil rights—refused to accept racial inequality.

Just Mercy by director Destin Daniel Cretton (2019) is a U.S. American legal drama film based on the true story of Walter McMillian, who, with the help of young defence attorney Bryan Stevenson, appeals his wrongful murder conviction. The film is adapted from the memoir of the same name, written by Stevenson.

Les Misérables by director Ladj Ly (2019) is set in contemporary Paris. Stephane, a police officer from the provinces, moves to Paris to join the Anti-Crime Brigade of Montfermeil, an impoverished suburb. There he works alongside two unscrupulous colleagues. One day an arrest unexpectedly turns violent and the three officers have to deal with the aftermath and try to keep the neighbourhood from erupting into violence. The film was inspired by the 2005 Parisian riots.

I Am Not Your Negro by director Raoul Peck (2017) is a documentary that connects the U.S. civil rights movement and the writings of James Baldwin to the #Black Lives Matter movement today. It raises important questions about Black representation in Hollywood and beyond.

If Beale Street Could Talk by director Barry Jenkins (2018) is a film about two African American teen sweethearts Fonny and Tish whose lives are ripped apart when Fonny is wrongly arrested for the rape of a Puerto Rican woman due to the manipulation of a racist police officer. Tish launches an attempt to seek justice for Fonny, with the help of her Harlem community, including her sister, mother Sharon, and future mother-in-law.

Ninth Floor by director Mina Shum (2015) is a documentary film about the 1969 Sir George Williams University (now part of Concordia University in Montreal) student occupation led by Black West Indies–born students to protest alleged racism.

Selma by director Ava DuVernay (2014) is a historical film about civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King that resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting and ensured Black Americans and other racial minorities had the right to vote.

The Colour of Beauty by Elizabeth St. Philip (2010) is a short documentary that examines the shocking reality of racism in the fashion industry. Are Black models seen to be less attractive to designers, casting directors, and consumers? What is the colour of beauty? This film is part of the Work for All series, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, with the participation of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

The Hate U Give by director George Tillman Jr. is a story of racial prejudice and courage. Starr Carter is a young woman with a double life. Starr lives in urban Garden City, but goes to a private high school attended mostly by white students. To fit in, depending on where she is, she changes her behaviour to suit that particular social context. After a police officer kills one of Starr’s best friends, she is experiences pressure to keep quiet about what she witnessed, but she is also motivated to turn to social activism.

Watchmen by Damon Lindelof (2019) is a U.S. American superhero television series that continues the 1986 DC Comics series Watchmen. The series focuses on events surrounding racist violence in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2019. A white supremacist group called the Seventh Kavalry has taken up arms against the Tulsa Police Department because of perceived racial injustices, causing the police to conceal their identities with masks to prevent the Seventh Kavalry from targeting them in their homes following the "White Night." Angela Abar, a detective known as Sister Night, investigates the murder of her friend and the chief of the police, Judd Crawford, and discovers secrets regarding the situations around vigilantism.

When They See Us by director Ava DuVernay (2019) is a four-episode series based on a real story, the 1989 Central Park jogger case. The series details how five Black teens from Harlem were falsely accused and then convicted of the rape and assault of a White woman in Central Park. The five were eventually exonerated and released. The film explores a criminal justice system plagued by systemic or institutional racism, and shows how rights may be stripped from innocent individuals even after they have served their sentence.

Whose Streets? by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis (2017) is a U.S. American documentary film that addresses how the 2014 fatal shooting of unarmed, 18-year-old Mike Brown by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, inspired a community to fight back. Filled with grief, long-standing racial concerns, and renewed anger, the residents of Ferguson come together to hold vigil and protest the tragedy.  Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the USA came together as freedom fighters and agents for change.

Black History Month

February (Black History Month) is the month in which we take the opportunity celebrate the progress, richness and diversity of the achievements and contributions of Blacks in Canada and around the world. It provides a focal point for the celebration of Black experiences, perspectives and history throughout the curriculum

Origins of Black History Month

Inez Stevenson silhouette

Inez Stevenson was born in Montreal in 1929 and migrated to Winnipeg at a very young age. She was the first elected Black woman in Manitoba and the second in Canada. She served as a school trustee on the Winnipeg School Board from 1974 to 1981. Inez Stevenson is recognized today for supporting the adoption of multiculturalism as an official policy at the provincial level in Manitoba, while also advocating for social justice and equality for all children.

The origins of Black History Month can be traced to 1926, when Black historian Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week to celebrate the history, contributions, and culture of African Americans. Woodson chose February to link the celebrations to the birth dates of Black activist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, as part of the U.S. American bicentennial celebrations, the week was expanded to become National Black History Month.

In  Canada, official recognition first came in the early 1950s when the Canadian Negro Women’s Association successfully petitioned Toronto City Council to acknowledge the week. In the 1970s, the Council, after lobbying by the newly formed Ontario Black History Society, declared that henceforth February would be known as Black History Month.

National recognition followed on December 14, 1995, when the House of Commons unanimously agreed to a motion formally recognizing Black History Month and the importance of Black history for all Canadians.

Black History Month has become an important part of multicultural and anti-racism programming and approaches. Many schools in Manitoba recognize and participate in Black History Month activities, especially urban, culturally diverse schools.

Manitoba Education encourages and supports schools in acknowledging and celebrating Black History Month and integrating Black history into their classrooms throughout the year.

Manitoba’s Black History Month Celebration Committee

In 1981, the Black History Month Celebration Committee (BHMCC) hosted the first Black History Month event in Winnipeg. The inaugural event was a church service at Pilgrim Baptist followed by an awards banquet.

In 1990, BHMCC’s role expanded to include programming to create an awareness of the history of Black people and their contributions in Manitoba, Canada, and elsewhere, and to celebrate the historical achievements of Black people in arts, education, government, sports, and science in Manitoba and Canada.

Manitoba Events

To see a calendar of local events during Black History Month, visit the Black History Month Winnipeg Blog and the Black History Month Celebration Committee Facebook page.

The International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024)

The United Nations proclaimed 2015–2024 as the Decade for People of African Descent recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be acknowledged, promoted, and protected. The UN estimates that approximately 200 million people in the Americas identify as being of African descent. Beyond Africa and the Americas, many millions more live in nations throughout the world.

Under the theme "Recognition, Justice and Development,” the Decade provides a framework to encourage states to work toward eradicating social injustices stemming from racist and discriminatory policies and practices of the past and “to fight against racism, prejudice and racial discrimination to which people of African descent are still subjected.”

The United Nations offers a number of related media resources including photos, videos, and graphics available on the website for the initiative. There are also resources related to International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Transatlantic slave trading lasted for over 400 years, and it is estimated that more than 15 million men, women, and children were the victims of this atrocity. It is one of the most violent and inhumane chapters in human history.

The Canadian Commission for UNESCO in June of 2020 published A Call to Mobilize against Racism and Discrimination, which offers a number of resources related to taking action against racism and discrimination.

Black History Resources

Black and Indigenous Canadians Encounter Racism in the Armed Forces during the First World War

Black Canadians who wished to serve for Canada in the First World War were eventually allowed to form their own battalion, November 1916.

After being prevented from enlisting at first, Black Canadians who wished to serve for Canada in the First World War were eventually allowed to form their own battalion, after they negotiated and agreed to segregation and non-combat construction roles.

Image Courtesy of Museum Windsor, P6110.


Recruits from File Hills, Saskatchewan, in 1915

Indigenous Canadians also faced restrictions and challenges in serving in the armed forces. The image above is of recruits from File Hills, Saskatchewan, in 1915. The recruits posed with Elders and a government representative. About 4000 First Nations men served in the First World War. However, when the war ended in November of 1918, upon their return to Canada, still they were denied the right to vote, faced racism, and were not usually entitled to the limited benefits that were provided to other veterans.

Photograph from the collection of the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, R-A2151, (1) – (3). Used with permission.

Black History Books for Children and Youth

There are many fiction and non-fiction books for children and youth with themes related to Black history. Here is a sample of some of the books available that may be of interest to teachers and students.


Fiction—Early Years

Malaika’s Winter Carnival by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher (Ages 3 to 7)
Malaika is happy to be reunited with Mummy, but it means moving to Canada, where everything is different. It is cold in Québec City and Carnival is nothing like the celebration Malaika knows from home!

Music from the Sky by Denise Gillard (Ages 3 to 7)
A young girl and her grandfather set out one morning to find the perfect branch for Grampa to carve. Grampa says he is going to make a flute, but the girl is doubtful. How can her grandfather make a flute out of a tree branch?

Nana’s Cold Days by Adwoa Badoe, illustrated by Bushra Junaid (Ages 4 to 8)
Nana is coming to visit from Africa, and grandsons Ken and Rama have been looking forward to her visit for months. However, it is icy cold when she arrives and all she can do is drape herself in bed covers.

All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Bill Slavin (Ages 4 to 8)
Elijah McCoy, the son of slaves, dreamed of studying mechanical engineering. He learned everything there was to know about engines. When he came to the United States, the only job Elijah could find was shoveling coal into a train’s firebox. Frustrated with having to stop the train to oil the engine, Elijah comes up with a brilliant invention.

Mayann’s Train Ride by Mayann Francis, illustrated by Tamara Thiébaux-Heikalo (Ages 4 to 8)
Nine-year-old Mayann Francis and her family are travelling from their home in Cape Breton to New York City by train. Everything is exciting to young Mayann on the trip, but most exciting of all is the chance to show off her brand new purse. On a subway ride, she loses her treasured purse and struggles with a lesson that will make the whole trip worthwhile.

Up Home by Shauntay Grant, illustrated by Susan Tooke (Ages 4 to 8)
This touching poem from spoken-word artist and poet Shauntay Grant offers a child’s perspective on growing up in a tight-knit community. Grant’s memories of growing up reflect a magical place where landscape, food, history, and people come together in a community filled with love and beauty.


Non-Fiction—Early Years

Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Gustavo Mazali
Canadian author Nadia Hohn provides a biography of Harriet Tubman, which depicts Tubman’s early life as a slave, her dedication to helping others escape from slavery, and her life after the Civil War.

The Little Boy from Jamaica: A Canadian History Story by Devon Clunis and Pearlene Clunis, illustrated by Emily Campbell
Written by the former Winnipeg Chief of Police, this book tells Devon’s story of how he overcame challenges and achieved something many thought impossible. It is a story of a little Black boy growing up in rural Jamaica without electricity or indoor plumbing who would one day immigrate to Canada and become Canada’s first-ever Black Chief of Police.

Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood by Bonnie Farmer, illustrated by Marie Lafrance
Long before Oscar Peterson became a virtuoso jazz pianist, he was a boy who loved to play the trumpet. When childhood tuberculosis weakened his lungs, Oscar could no longer play his beloved instrument. He took up piano and the rest is history: Oscar went on to become an international jazz piano sensation.

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! by Jody Warner, illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
In Nova Scotia, in 1946, an usher in a movie theatre told Viola Desmond to move from her main floor seat up to the balcony. She refused. Viola knew she was being asked to move because she was Black. All the other Black people were up in the balcony. The police arrived and took Viola to jail. The next day she was charged and fined, but she vowed to continue her struggle against such unfair rules.

Hurry, Freedom by Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Emily and Matt journey to the Canada-U.S. border in 1858 to travel along the Underground Railroad. They befriend famous abolitionist Dr. Alexander Ross and a group of runaway slaves he is helping escape to Canada.

From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom collected by Eric Walters
This collection of classic sayings is gorgeously illustrated by artists from Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, the United States, and other places.

A Change of Heart by Alice Walsh, illustrated by Erin Bennett Banks
Lanier Phillips escapes the violence, racism, and segregation of his Georgia home by joining the navy during the Second World War. However, tragedy strikes one February night off the southeastern coast of Newfoundland, and Lanier is the lone Black survivor of a terrible shipwreck. Covered in oil when he arrives onshore, the community’s kindness and humanity brings him back to health and changes his outlook on life.

Plaque commemorating Viola Desmond

Plaque commemorating Viola Desmond, located two blocks from the Roseland Theatre, at the Halifax public library

Image source: Sean Marshal. “Viola Desmond plaque.” Flickr. Accessed 10 Sept. 2020. Creative Commons License—Attribution, NonCommercial 2.0 Generic.

Meet Viola Desmond by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Mike Deas
Meet Viola Desmond, community leader and early civil rights trailblazer. This new picture book biography series features simple text and full-colour, comic-flavoured illustrations with speech balloons that bring the story of Viola Desmond alive.

The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories by Adwoa Badoe, illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite (Ages 7 to 12)
Drawing on the rich vein of the African Ananse tradition, author Adwoa Badoe brings us a lively, witty and entertaining collection of 10 tales about this spider trickster. Sometimes Ananse succeeds and things go his way; other times he makes a fool of himself and is ashamed—but never for a long time.


Fiction—Middle Years

Dear Canada: A Desperate Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson, Virginia to Canada West, 1863–1864 by Karleen Bradford
One of the titles in Scholastic’s Dear Canada series, this is a riveting tale of a brave family’s desperate bid for freedom, and the price they pay to find it. Julia May and her family fled from their life of slavery on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, and try to make their way north, on foot, where they have heard that enslaved peoples can live freely. Their story—a gruelling one marked by great difficulties and challenges—is told through Julia May's journal entries. Julia May’s diary is in itself an act of resistance and bravery—she secretly learned to read and write alongside her mistress at the plantation when it was strictly forbidden for a slave girl to learn to read and write. She records her experiences, fears, and the extraordinary things she sees during her journey. Her journal keeps her going through the hard times until they finally reach their destination. Sadly, they learn that even in the new land, prejudice and discrimination still rule.

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
In 1859, 11-year-old Elijah Freeman—the first Black child to be born a free person in Buxton, Canada—uses his wits and skills to try to bring to justice the lying preacher who has stolen money that was to be used to buy a family’s freedom. Buxton had offered asylum to enslaved African people fleeing from servitude and oppression in the American South.

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker
This novel is set in the United States and Canada in the years leading up to the U.S. American Civil War. It tells the story of Julilly who was taken away from her mother by a ruthless slave trader and sold in the South to the owner of a planation. She dreams of escaping with her friend Liza to a land where it is possible to be free. Workers with the Underground Railroad offer to help the two girls escape to Canada. The book tells of the hard lives of slaves in the American South and the people who helped them escape to Canada via the Underground Railroad. The novel is studied in many Canadian schools and often presented as a play during Black History Month.


Non-fiction—Middle Years

Caribbean Immigrants in Canada by Julie Kentner
This resource explores the history of Caribbean immigration to Canada, including the challenges people faced, then and now, and efforts by the Canadian government to help them adapt to their new country.

Enslaved People in Canada by Julie Kentner
This book explores the many barriers early and later Black settlers encountered and how Black Canadians have fought for equal treatment and human rights.

Kids Book of Black Canadian History by Rosemary Sadlier, illustrated by Wang Qijun (Ages 8-12)
Black Canadians have played an important role in our country’s history. In this informative overview, kids will discover the inspiring stories and events of a people who fought oppression as they searched for a place to call their own.

Moments in Canadian Black History by Jan Hansen
This resource provides insights into the views of people and events in Canadian history. Learning activities serve to engage students in discussions and cover a wide range of activities including creative writing, research, drama, and role-playing with an emphasis on language as well as Canadian history.

The Revolution and the Black Loyalists by Julie Kentner
This title explores the important contributions Black Canadians have made from their initial arrival during the colonization of Canada through to the present day.

The Underground Railroad by Rachel Seigel
This book recounts the development of the Underground Railroad used by escaped slaves to travel north to freedom, and it discusses the challenges faced by these Black settlers after reaching Canada.

We Are Our Ancestors’ Keepers by Charles 3X Alexander, illustrated by Adin Parker
We Are Our Ancestors’ Keepers tells the stories of Black heroes and sheroes throughout history. This book will educate, engage, encourage, and empower the lives of every reader by showing how people overcame many obstacles to achieve success for all of humanity.


Fiction—Senior Years

And I Alone Escaped to Tell You by Sylvia Hamilton
The title And I Alone Escaped to Tell You is a biblical verse taken from the Book of Job, 1:15—apt for a book that documents the historical events and lives of early Black Nova Scotians, many of whom sailed from the United States to start a new life after the American Revolution. Hamilton’s poems give these historical events a human voice, blending documentary material, memory, experience, and imagination to evoke the lives of these early Black Nova Scotians and of the generations that followed. They show how where one comes from charts the landscape one inevitably calls home.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
The book’s title is borrowed from a historical document, the British Navy’s list of 3000 Black people who fought for the British side during the American Revolution and when the British were defeated in 1783 left Manhattan for Nova Scotia. This beautiful and compelling historical novel spans three continents and six decades to bring to life the truth about slavery and racial discrimination in Canadian and North American history through the story of one brave and resourceful woman, Aminata Diallo. The book has won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. It has been produced as an award-winning six-part television miniseries, which attracted millions of viewers in Canada and the USA.

Chasing Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley
This historical noveltells the story of Sarah Redmond, a slave working at a South Carolina plantation, who witnesses her father escape to join the British army during the American Revolution, motivated by promises of freedom for his whole family. When the war ends, Sarah and her grandmother are freed and taken to Birchtown, Nova Scotia, the first all-Black community in North America, where their struggle for true freedom begins.

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
This debut book successfully depicts the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation Canadians and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominately White society. Kara Davis is a girl caught between her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, as her mother and grandmother expect. Set in Toronto’s Eglinton West (“Little Jamaica”) neighbourhood, these 12 interconnected stories follow Kara as she moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood, from elementary school to high school graduation. Collectively, they paint a rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds and the challenge of bicultural identities.

Reproduction by Ian Williams
Felicia, a 19-year-old student from a Caribbean family, and Edgar, the lazy-minded and impetuous heir of a wealthy German family, meet by chance when their ailing mothers are assigned the same hospital room. After the death of Felicia’s mother and the discharge of Edgar’s, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as caregiver to Edgar’s mother. The odd-couple relationship between Edgar and Felicia, ripe with miscommunications, misunderstandings, and reprisals for perceived and real offences, has some unexpected results. The novel explores unconventional ideas about family.

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens
This lyrical debut novel explores the redeeming power of love and memory through the story of two unlikely people who were thrown together and who transformed each other’s lives forever. Five-year-old Sharla Cody, who had already lived a troubled life, now finds herself dumped on an elderly neighbour’s doorstep when her mother decided to leave for the summer. The neighbour Addy Shadd and Sharla soon build a deep bond as Sharla’s presence brings back memories of Addy’s own childhood in Rusholme, a town that had been settled by fugitive slaves in the mid-1800s. She shares with Sharla her memories of her family, her first love, and the painful experience that drove her to leave home.

Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji
This award-winning debut short story collection draws on Mutonji’s experience growing up in the Scarborough district of Toronto and in Oshawa after immigrating to Canada as a child from Kinshasa, Republic of the Congo. The linked stories tell of a young girl’s coming of age in Scarborough’s Galloway neighbourhood.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
This novel tells of two characters—Washington (Wash) Black, an 11-year-old “field” slave who has worked on a Barbados sugar plantation all his life, and Christopher Wilde ("Titch"), the naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist who takes him away from all that—and creates a world where the enslaved and the free can see each other as human, and where a man born in chains can live a life of dignity and meaning.


Non-fiction—Senior Years

The African Diaspora in Canada: Negotiating Identity and Belonging, edited by Wisdom J. Tettey and Korbla P. Puplampu
The African Diaspora in Canada addresses the conceptual difficulties and political dimensions of what the term African Canadian means, focusing on first-generation, Black continental Africans who have immigrated in the past four decades to Canada. In documenting their experiences in the education systems, the workplace, and the political context of Canada, this book addresses the empirical, conceptual, and methodological gaps that work to homogenize all Black people and their experiences, irrespective of their diversity. The book also explores the experiences of African Canadian children, as they try to define their identities with respect to their parents and the broader Canadian society.

Africville: The Life and Death of a Canadian Black Community by Donald H. Clairmont and Dennis William Magill
In the mid-1960s, the city of Halifax decided to raze the homes and relocate the inhabitants of Africville. The Halifax settlement of Africville had deteriorated over time—because of civil neglect, mismanagement, and poor planning—into what some considered one of the worst city slums in Canada. This book provides a sociological account of the relocation of the residents, revealing how a lack of resources and inadequate planning led to devastating consequences .This third edition of the 1974 classic contains new material that builds on and expands the original analysis, updates the account, and highlights the continuing importance of Africville to Black consciousness in Nova Scotia.

Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Achievement by Lindsay Ruck, illustrated by James Bentley
This full-colour illustrated book features over 50 profiles of amazing Black people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, including sports figures, superstars, activists, and many other kinds of heroes, both famous and unsung, from the past and present.

Birchtown and the Black Loyalists by Wanda Lauren Taylor
Birchtown was the major settlement area for Black Loyalists, Africans who escaped from slavery and fought for the British during the American Revolution. This book tells of the journey of Black American soldiers, their settlement and struggle on Nova Scotian soil, and the resilience and enduring spirit of their descendants despite a history characterized by hardship and loss. This resource includes informative sidebars, highlighted glossary terms, recommended reading, a historic timeline, an index, and dozens of historical and contemporary images.

The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past by Winfried Siemerling
This text provides a comprehensive survey of Anglophone and Francophone Black Canadian writing and its transnational connections from the nineteenth century to the present, within the context of Atlantic Canada. Winfried Siemerling traces the evolution of Black Canadian literature from slave testimony in New France and the 1783 Book of Negroes through the work of contemporary black Canadian writers, including George Elliott Clarke, Austin Clarke, Dionne Brand, David Chariandy, Wayde Compton, Esi Edugyan, Marlene NourbeSe Philip, and Lawrence Hill.

The Black Battalion 1916–1920: Canada’s Best-Kept Military Secret by Calvin W. Ruck
Many Canadians have limited if any knowledge that Black soldiers served, fought, and died on European battlefields, all in the name of freedom. Nor are they likely aware of the overt racist and oppressive treatment of Black volunteers in the military efforts. This history is an important part of the Black legacy and the Black experience in Canada. This 30th-anniversary edition of Ruck’s history of Nova Scotia’s No. 2 Construction Battalion, known as the Black Battalion, features the original text and over 60 photographs and documents, along with a new foreword and photographs from journalist Lindsay Ruck, (Calvin Ruck’s granddaughter).

Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada by Lawrence Hill
This book by Lawrence Hill, an acclaimed Canadian author and the child of a Black father and White mother, is a thought-provoking and new look at the status of race relations in Canada. In it, Hill reveals his struggle to understand his personal and racialized identity. Brought up in a predominantly White Ontario suburb and raised by parents who were human rights activists, his recollections and experiences offer a unique perspective. Hill shares his personal experiences and family’s fascinating history, interspersed with the experiences of 36 other Canadians of biracial or multiracial backgrounds.

The Blacks in Canada: A History, Second Edition, by Robin Winks
This book offers a sweeping historical survey, covering all aspects of the Black experience in Canada, from 1628 through the late 1960s, including the French and English periods of slavery in the Canadian colonies, the abolitionist movement in Canada, and the role played by Canadians in the broader anti-slavery movement, as well as Canadian adaptations to nineteenth- and twentieth-century norms. The second edition includes a new introduction outlining changes that have occurred since the book’s first edition in 1971 and discussing the state of Black Canadian studies today.

The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783–1870 by James W. St. G. Walker
One of the myths of Canadian history is about the Loyalists who left for Canada from the lands that became the United States after the American Revolution. According to the myth, these Loyalists were white, well-to-do citizens of European origin who were devoted to British ideals, culture, and the Crown. However, in reality, over 10 percent of the Loyalists who came to the Maritime provinces were Black and had been slaves before obtaining their freedom. This book tells the story of a group of Black Loyalists who moved to Nova Scotia, but who did not stay due to the oppression and marginalization they experienced.  Walker documents the group’s experience in Canada, and follows them across the Atlantic as they sought freedom and returned to Africa as part of a unique colonial experiment in Sierra Leone.

Black Loyalists: Southern Settlers of Nova Scotia’s First Free Black Communities by Ruth Holmes Whitehead
This book on Black Loyalists presents hard historical data about the lives of Black Loyalists before they escaped slavery in in the southern colonial settlements that are today South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and after they moved to and settled in Nova Scotia. This fascinating book raises our awareness of the many courageous and enterprising Black women, men, and children who survived the American Revolution, and who struggled to achieve freedom and human dignity.

Canadian Women Now and Then: More Than 100 Stories of Fearless Trailblazers by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Maïa Faddoul
This book tells the stories of the many Canadian women have been groundbreakers in many fields, including science, the arts, sports, politics, activism, law, and business. It provides a unique perspective on Canadian history. The author, an award-winning children’s writer, contextualizes today’s inspiring women with historical trailblazers from the past who paved the way for other women in that particular field. Canada’s diversity is reflected in these stories of women of colour, Indigenous women, Paralympians, and women from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

John Ware, wife, and children

John Ware, wife, and children

John Ware (c. 1845 – 11 September 1905) was one of the first ranchers in Alberta. He was an African American who was born into slavery on a plantation near Georgetown, South Carolina, and after emancipation, he eventually made his way to Alberta.  At a time of widespread racism and discrimination, he was widely admired and considered to be one of the best cowboys in the West. He became a successful rancher who settled near Calgary and Brooks.

Image source: Glenbow Archives/NA-263-1 waiting for permission

Deemed Unsuitable: Blacks from Oklahoma Move to the Canadian Prairies in Search of Equality in the Early 20th Century Only to Find Racism in Their New Home by R. Bruce Shepard
Black U.S. Americans from Oklahoma came to Western Canada to escape the discrimination they faced after restrictive acts were imposed on them in Oklahoma in 1907. Between 1910 and 1911, a group of 1500 Black people immigrated to Canada and settled in Amber Valley, Alberta. Despite this movement, the growth of the Black communities on the Prairies was limited because they were denied entry or they tended to move into other urban areas in Canada. This book tells the story of the move of Black people from Oklahoma to the Canadian Prairies in their search for equality in the early twentieth century, only to find racism in their new home.

Done with Slavery: The Black Fact in Montreal, 1760–1840 by Frank Mackey
The author examines archival and contemporary sources to uncover mostly unknown aspects of the transition of Black enslaved people to freedom. The book provides a detailed and insightful look at Black Montrealers and reveals the variety of occupations held by Black people, the relationships they had with those they served, their experiences with the judicial and political systems, and the intercultural and multiracial families that resulted from intermarriage and apprenticeships.

The Freedom-Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada by Daniel G. Hill
Black Loyalists and their families were among the first settlers in Nova Scotia and Upper Canada. As abolition movements and the Underground Railroad gained support, Black slaves and refugees streamed into Canada to build new lives for themselves and their children. The Freedom-Seekers chronicles their story of struggle to break the chains of slavery, find acceptance and respect, and gain the full rights of citizenship in their adopted country.

Daniel G. Hill

Daniel G. Hill was a human rights specialist, historian, and public servant. He was prominent in the movement to overturn racial discrimination in Canada. Hill arrived in the country for graduate studies but committed himself to the quest for justice.

As an activist in 1950s, Hill used public awareness as a tool to combat prejudice. With a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Toronto and a decade of experience with social causes, he became the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1962, a position he held until 1971.

In 1971, he became the first full-time chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and in 1973 established a consulting firm in human rights with an international clientele.

Source of Image: Daniel G. Hill, [ca. 1960]
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-9-2-13
Archives of Ontario, I0027960
© Queen’s Printer for Ontario

Frontiers: Selected Essays and Writings on Racism and Culture, 1984–1992 by M. NourbeSe Philip
Marlene Nourbese Philip is the influential Canadian author of novels, stories, essays, and plays concerning the politics of gender, race, and language. This collection of essays from a range of appearances in magazines, newspapers, and journals examines contemporary issues of race and culture in insightful, thought-provoking, and challenging ways.

The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal by Afua Cooper
Afua Cooper, a Jamaican-born Canadian historian, poet, and author, tells the story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, an enslaved Black woman, who was falsely accused and found guilty of starting the fire that burned a large part of Montreal in 1734. Cooper’s retelling of Angélique’s story is supported by archival illustrations and builds on 15 years of research to shed a new perspective on the courageous Portuguese-born Black woman who refused to accept her indentured servitude. This story challenges and demolishes the myth of a safe, slave-free Canada, by revealing the 200-year-old record of legally and culturally endorsed slavery.

Historic Black Nova Scotia by Bridglal Pachai and Henry Bishop
Authors Bridglal Pachai and Henry Bishop provide an informed perspective on the development of Nova Scotia’s historic Black communities. This book from the Images of Our Past series sheds light on the complex story of struggle, resistance, resilience, and triumph of Nova Scotia’s Black communities and shares many photographs and stories of Black ancestors and the challenges they experienced.

The History of Immigration and Racism in Canada: Essential Readings, edited by Barrington Walker
This collection of writings examines the complex and disturbing history of immigration and racism in Canada. Major themes covered include contact between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, migration and settlement in the nineteenth century, immigrant workers and radicalism, human rights, internment during the Second World War, and racism in contemporary Canada.

How the Blacks Created Canada by Fil Fraser
This book explores the important contributions made by Black Canadians across the country and throughout history. These contributions range from the early 1600s, when African navigator Mathieu De Costa used his knowledge of Mi’kmaq languages to enable communication between the Europeans and Indigenous people, to contemporary times, when  Black Canadians have excelled in sports, entertainment, and politics, as well as in business, academia, the judiciary, and a broad range of public service roles.

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David Chariandy
This personal and deep meditation on the politics of race today began one day when Chariandy quietly ignored an incident of racism, and his three-year-old daughter was perplexed and asked, “What happened?” This moment led him to consider how he should discuss race and racism with his children. A decade later, in another era of heated racial divisions and struggle for rights, he writes a letter to his now 13-year-old daughter. He hopes that by sharing with his daughter his own story and that of his ancestors, he will help her to develop a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful reality of the past and present with hope for a better future.

The Journey from Tollgate to Parkway: African Canadians in Hamilton by Adrienne Shadd
This engaging and well-researched historical narrative tells the history of Black people in the Ancaster-Burlington-Hamilton area of Ontario. It explores their journey as slaves in Upper Canada to their settlement and development of community in the Hamilton area, their struggle for justice and equality, and their achievements.

North of the Color Line: Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870–1955 by Sarah-Jane Mathieu
This book explores life in Canada for approximately 5000 African Americans and West Indian immigrants, who came to Canada after the end of Reconstruction in the United States. Through the lives of Black railway workers and their union, the author weaves together social, political, labour, immigration, and Black diaspora history during the Jim Crow era.

A Place in the Sun: Haiti, Haitians, and the Remaking of Quebec by Sean Mills
Mills looks at the relationships and impact of White Quebecers and Haitian immigrants on each other, first by analyzing French-Canadians’ early ideas about Haiti and migration into Quebec, and then examining Haitians’ ideas about Quebec, exploring the ideas and activities of taxi drivers, exiled priests, aspiring authors, and feminist activists in Quebec. Mills argues that Haitian immigrants stimulated new debates, exposed new tensions, and along the way played a key role in transforming Quebec society.

Razing Africville: A Geography of Racism by Jennifer J. Nelson
Africville was an African Canadian community situated just north of Halifax founded in the mid-eighteenth century. In the 1960s the City of Halifax razed the once-prosperous seaside community to make space for a new middle class housing development in what many said was an act of racism. In 2010, the mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality apologized for the action. The author examines a variety of sources, such as urban planning texts, city council documents, news media, and academic accounts, to show how Africville went from being a Black community to being considered a slum and  problem to be solved, and, more recently, to a public space in which past injustice and violence is rendered invisible.

Silenced: Talks with Working Class Caribbean Women about Their Lives and Struggles as Domestic Workers in Canada by Makeda Silvera
This collection of edited narratives drawn from interviews with migrant domestic workers, conducted by Jamaica-born and Toronto-based writer Silvera touches on many important issues. These range from migration of labour from the Southern Hemisphere to advanced capitalist nations in the Northern Hemisphere, immigrant legal status and invisibility, anti-Black racism, care work, gender-based sexual violence, motherhood, income inequities within labour markets, and the human cost of neo-liberal economic policies, all of which are just relevant in today’s political discourse as they were at the time of the book’s publication in 1983.

They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada by Cecil Foster
This historical work tells the little-known true stories of Black railway porters in Canada, who were also known as the “Pullmen” of the Canadian rail lines. Historically, when railways were the primary means of travel, Canada’s Black train porters were a familiar sight to the average passenger, but their minority status made them politically invisible. They were subjected to harsh working conditions, denied job security, and prohibited from bringing their families to Canada, and it was their struggle against such racist polices and laws in the Dominion of Canada that helped lay the foundation for the multicultural nation we know today.

The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! by Adrienne Shadd, Afua Cooper, and Karolyn Smardz Frost
This richly illustrated book examines the urban connection of the clandestine system of secret routes, safe houses, and “conductors” of the Underground Railroad and how people courageously made the trip north to Canada and freedom. It also explores what happened to them after they arrived, using never-before-published information on the African Canadian community of Toronto.

Until We Are Free: Reflections of Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware
The killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 by a white assailant inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, which quickly spread beyond the borders of the United States. The movement’s message was adopted by contemporary Canadian Black activists, who also attested to the generations of injustice their communities have experienced and their desire to continue the work of the Black freedom fighters that came before them. Until We Are Free features some of the very best African Canadian writing on the major issues facing the Black community in Canada. It describes the latest developments in Canadian Black activism, organizing efforts with social media, Black-Indigenous alliances, and more.

Viola Desmond’s Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Landby Graham Reynolds, with Wanda Robson
In 1946, Viola Desmond was unjustly arrested for sitting in a Whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. In 2010, the Nova Scotia government recognized this enormous injustice and posthumously granted her a free pardon. Viola Desmond’s Canada concisely summarizes the story of the Black experience in Canada’s history, from slavery under French and then British rule in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the practice of racial segregation in various provinces, and the continued struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century. Personal recollections by Wanda Robson (Viola Desmond’s youngest sister) as well as a number of important but previously unpublished documents and other primary sources related to race and racism in Canada are also featured.

Willie O’Ree: The Story of the First Black Player in the NHL by Nicole Mortillaro
Willie O’Ree made North American history at the Montreal Forum on January 18, 1958, when he became the first Black player to play for a National Hockey League (NHL) team. This book traces the early life of O’Ree in Fredericton, New Brunswick, his journey to the NHL, highlights from his hockey career, and his work encouraging diversity in the NHL.

Canadian Black History Internet Resources

Black History in Manitoba

Manitoba did not have a large Black or African presence until after the changes in the immigration laws in Canada removed some of the racist barriers to Black Immigration. However, there has been a Black presence in Manitoba since the early days of the province.

The Black population of Manitoba and the Canadian West grew slowly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with most migrating from the United States. One of the first and best-documented Black people to migrate and settle in Manitoba was William S. A. Beal, a.k.a. Billy Beal. Beal arrived in the Swan River region in 1906 and dedicated his life to building his community.

Winnipeg was the gateway to the West for Black people from Oklahoma and others fleeing discrimination in the United States. By 1909, hundreds of Oklahoma Blacks had moved to the Canadian Prairies. Unfortunately, they often encountered the same racial prejudices and discrimination that had allowed slavery to exist in earlier times. In February 1911, a few newspapers in Winnipeg even predicted that the Dominion government would move to exclude “Negro immigrants.”

Pilgrim Baptist Church in Winnipeg opened circa 1923 and was located near the CPR railway. It soon became an important social and cultural centre for Winnipeg’s emerging Black community, members of which mostly found employment on the railways at this time. Pilgrim Baptist Church continues to be an important part of the Black community in Manitoba.

Over time Black Manitobans of various origins, religions, cultures, and backgrounds have made Manitoba their home. A few online resources related to Black history in Manitoba follow.

Black Organizations in Manitoba

There are many cultural and community-based organizations in Manitoba and Winnipeg that serve the Black communities in Manitoba. The Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba (ECCM) has quite a few member organizations, which serve several diverse ethnic communities. EECM provides information on these communities on their Ethnocultural Communities’ Profiles web page.

A few of the Black community organizations active in Manitoba in education are highlighted below.

  • Afro-Caribbean Association of Manitoba: ACAM was founded in 1968 and has been active in and supportive of Manitoba’s Black communities. It is dedicated to the promotion and development of a sense of unity and community spirit among Black Peoples.
  • African Communities of Manitoba Inc.: ACOMI is a non-profit, community umbrella organization that is dedicated to creating the conditions for and supporting a vibrant, engaged, and sustainable African Canadian presence across Manitoba, and thereby contributing to a culturally rich and economically prosperous, socially inclusive society. It has a membership of about 30 African and Black organizations.
  • Black Educators Association of Manitoba: BEAM is dedicated to supporting Black youth in the education system and promoting anti-racism education.
  • Black Space Winnipeg: This is a community-based organization that fosters dialogue on everyday experiences of being Black, and encourages sharing perspectives of Afrocentrism and pro-Black conversation. Black Space Winnipeg endeavours to create safe spaces for people of colour through hosting community events, artist demonstrations, and workshops. Black Space Winnipeg is dedicated to challenging anti-Black racism and discrimination and building inclusivity across all sectors in Winnipeg for Black people.
  • Black Youth Helpline: Black Youth Helpline was founded in Winnipeg in 1992. In 2002, it became established in Ontario. It offers a number of services including the helpline, sponsors a stay-in-school initiative, and provides other supports for Black parents and youth.
  • Council of Caribbean Organizations of Manitoba: The Council of Caribbean Organizations of Manitoba Inc. is a non-profit umbrella organization of Caribbean community groups, committed to addressing the collective needs and concerns of its members through cultural and educational activities, and through discourse with the wider community.
  • The Congress of Black Women: The Congress of Black Women in Manitoba, one of the oldest Black organizations in Manitoba, provides programs to encourage the development, education, and awareness of Black women of all ages.
  • The Educators of Colour Network: The Network was founded in October of 2009 with the original intent of bringing together young, Black educators with the support of the Black Educators Association of Manitoba. However, educators of other cultural backgrounds were interested and soon the vision for the Network was expanded. EOCN seeks to increase and support diversity in education by providing learning and networking opportunities to all educators, regardless of background.
  • UM Black Alliance: UMBA is affiliated with the University of Manitoba and consists of Black students, alumni, staff, and faculty members. It “was formed to acknowledge and honour the specific history of dispossession, enslavement, segregation, settler colonialism, and related conditions that resulted in a Black presence in Canada.” UMBA commemorates and organizes events such as Emancipation Day and Black History Month.
Manitoba Black History Resources

African and Caribbean Community Profiles
In the mid-1990s, the Manitoba Multiculturalism Secretariat commissioned and published a series of profiles of various ethnocultural communities, including A Profile of the African Community of Manitoba and A Profile Of The Caribbean Community In Manitoba. These profiles provide a historical overview of the communities and of their presence in Manitoba.

Back Tracks to Railroad Ties
Back Tracks to Railroad Ties was the name of a 1994 exhibit displayed at what was then called the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, now known as the Manitoba Museum. The Manitoba Archives holds the Back Tracks to Railroad Ties exhibit and Black history research collection. The collection documents research into the Black community in Manitoba and Canada, much of which was done to prepare for the exhibit. A list of the archival resources including print texts, exhibition panels, and photographs is available.

Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR)
CMHR offers an excellent short online article by Travis Tomchuk, “Black Sleeping Car Porters: The Struggle for Black Labour Rights on Canada’s Railways.”

Congress of Black Women of Manitoba. Living History: Local Voices, Racial Inequality On The Job:Then and Now Oral history is a way of collecting and interpreting human memories to foster knowledge and human dignity. Living History: Manitoba Educators 1960s–1980s is a video that highlights the experiences of 10 Black educators, from various levels of academia, who emigrated from the Caribbean. Listen to them share their experiences as they navigate the Canadian educational system during the 1960s to the1980s. Viewers will have the opportunity to reflect actively on their own personal experiences. This will help them to create a comparison between life then and now. This project was jointly funded by the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba and Multicultural Secretariat. Space was provided by Taylor McCaffrey LLP.

Manitoba Black History: Percy Haynes
Piercy (Percy) Augustus Haynes was born in British Guyana and came to Winnipeg with his parents as an infant. He became one of the best-known Black Manitobans due to his music and restaurant. This article by Christian Cassidy tells Percy’s story.

Manitoba Historical Society
The Manitoba Historical Society website has a number of resources related to Black History. These may be found by doing a search using the key word negro. Some examples of resources include an article on the Negro in Minnesota 1800–1865 and Memorable Manitobans: William Sylvester Alpheus “Billy” Beal (1874–1968).

The Black Experience in Manitoba: A Collection of Memories (1993)
Stevenson, Darryl, and Pat Graham. The Black Experience in Manitoba: A Collection of Memories. The Winnipeg School Division No. 1: in cooperation with the IDEA Centre, 1993.

Originally conceived of as a pamphlet, it eventually became a 124-page book that documents the lives of 40 Black individuals who helped shape Manitoba. This book remains one of the few authoritative texts on the contributions of Black Manitobans.

Sleeping Car Porters Union: A Story of Solidarity
The Sleeping Car Porters Union, whose membership was all Black, opted to support the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, even though it had only recently formed. The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike Driving & Walking Tour booklet mentions this vulnerable group and why they decided to support the strike.

The Black Prairies: History, Subjectivity, Writing
This 2008 doctoral dissertation by Karina J. Vernon explores and brings critical attention to the mostly unknown history and cultural work of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Black pioneer writers on the Canadian prairies, and connects this historical literature to the work of contemporary Black Prairie authors. The Black Prairie archive thus brings together 135 years of Black writing on the prairies, from 1873 to 2008. The thesis includes a discussion of some of the Black pioneers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. In 2020, Vernon published the book The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology, making this work accessible to a general audience.

University of Manitoba Black History Month News Archive
In honour of Black History Month, in 2018 the University of Manitoba’s newsletter, UM Today, highlighted a few noteworthy individuals associated with the University of Manitoba during the past 100 plus years. The article and other subsequent stories related to Black History Month are all part of this archive.

Black History in Canada

There are many websites with resources, lesson plans, and information on Black history and Black History Month. Listed below are some of the websites available that may be of interest to teachers and students.

Black History Canada Portal
This website by Canada’s History Society is dedicated to Black History, containing links and resources for teaching about Black history in Canada. The portal guides users to the Canadian Encyclopedia Black History in Canada collection, which includes articles, timelines, photos, and videos.

African Canadian Roads to Freedom
Educators and Black community members from the Windsor/Essex region of Ontario developed this resource collaboratively. The region has been home to many Black Canadians, some that fled to Canada from the United States and some that have immigrated from African countries and the Caribbean in more recent years. The resource was developed to provide teacher background information on African Canadian heritage and culture connected directly to specific learning expectations in The Ontario Curriculum for Grade 10 Canadian History Since World War I (Academic and Applied) and Grade 10 Civics (Open).

Anti-Slavery Movement in Canada, Library and Archives Canada
In 2001, at the invitation of the J’Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre, Library and Archives Canada commemorated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada in 1851 with this exhibition.

BC Black History Awareness Society
The British Columbia Black History Awareness Society (BCBHAS) website features a number of resources of interest to teachers and students in the learning centre section. The Society was formed to celebrate the achievements of Black people in British Columbia by creating an awareness of their history, stimulating interest in the contributions of individuals of African ancestry to B.C. and Canada today, and celebrating historical and current achievements in the arts, education, government, sports, science, and so on.

Black Canadians in Uniform—A Proud Tradition
Indigenous, Black, and other racialized groups experience many barriers and challenges in Canada’s military including exclusion and segregation. This website from Veteran’s Affairs Canada features information on Black people in Canada’s military.

Black Halifax
Black Halifax is an innovative, interactive multidisciplinary project that seeks to celebrate Halifax’s Black community, which has existed and flourished since the 1700s often under difficult circumstances. The history of the Black community is told through a collection of stories presented by local performance poets and actors, who combine storytelling with archival photographs and film in short videos. The stories cover individuals, sites, and events of historic significance to the African–Nova Scotian and the broader community. Currently, 14 videos are available to stream. The site is being developed and is expected to provide discussion guides and other resources.

Black History in Ontario
The Ontario Archives offers a number of online exhibits related to the history of Black people in Ontario. These include

Black History Month in Canada
The Black History Month in Canada site features a compilation of some of the stories published by Radio Canada International during Black History Month from 2012 to the present.

Black History Month in Canada’s Digital Collections
This web page lists the projects included in Canada’s Digital Collections (CDC). Black history–related content is included in the CDC. This digital collection was produced in partnership with Industry Canada.

Black History in Canada, Library and Archives Canada
Library and Archives Canada holds many collections related to Black people. Some of the documents are available on this site.

Black Loyalist
The Black Loyalist website is a repository of historical data about the African American Loyalist refugees who left New York between April and November 1783 and whose names are recorded in the Book of Negroes. The site is under development, and in this first stage, it concentrates on providing biographical and demographic information for the largest cohort, about 1000 people from Norfolk, Virginia, and surrounding counties. Users may browse the repository by the names of the Loyalists, by events, or by sources.

The Book of Negroes
The Book of Negroes recorded the names and descriptions of 3000 Black Loyalists, enslaved Africans who sought freedom by fleeing to the British lines during the American Revolution and who were evacuated to points in Nova Scotia as free people of colour. As American and British officers recorded the Book of Negroes separately, there are two versions of the document. One copy is held with the Guy Carlton Papers in The National Archives of Great Britain in London, England. The second copy is held in the United States National Archives in Washington, D.C. Access the British Book of Negroes at Carleton Papers – Book of Negroes, 1783.

The Book of Negroes
Canadian director Clement Virgo adapted Lawrence Hill’s novel The Book of Negroes (see Senior Years—Fiction) into a six-hour television mini-series of the same title. The series premiered on CBC in Canada and on BET in the United States in February of 2015.

Canadian Black Heritage in the Third Millennium Web Portal
The Canadian Black Heritage in the Third Millennium Web Portal was created by educator/school administrator Gary Pieters as an online resource for educators, researchers, writers, students, and other people researching Black history from a Canadian perspective. This web portal links to comprehensive Internet resources, categorizing past, present, and future events, people, places, and issues about Canadians of African descent.

Canadian Encyclopedia: Black History in Canada
The Canadian Encyclopedia plays an essential role in providing Canadians and others with accurate, updated information about our people and country. The Black History in Canada collection includes articles, timelines, photos, and videos.

The Centre for the Study of Black Cultures in Canada: An Online Resource by the Centre for the Study of Black Cultures in Canada
This site provides information on African Canadian artists and their works, links to other Canadian resources on the web, and updates about the activities of the Centre. Resources are organized into six themes: Culture, Dance, Film/Theatre, Literature, Music, and Visual Art. In the literature section, a list of Children’s Literature on Black History and culture may be found along with book summaries and suggestions on age appropriateness.

Colonial Canada Had Slavery For More Than 200 Years. And Yes, It Still Matters Today
This article by Joshua Ostroff, published in the Huffington Post on June 17, 2017, explores the history of slavery in Canada and the effects that history continues to have today.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Blacks
The Dictionary of Canadian Biography features biographies of national importance, including those of many Black people.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary—Library and Archives of Canada
Mary Ann Shadd Cary was an American-Canadian anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher, and lawyer. Mary Ann was the first Black female publisher in North America and the first female publisher in Canada. The archival records documenting Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s abolitionist activities and personal life are available from this site.

On the Road North—Black Canada and the Journey to Freedom
The Virtual Museum of Canada provides a teacher resource that uncovers the history of Black Canadians and their contributions to the establishment of Canada. The project was a collaborative project with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and is available for display.

Remember Africville—National Film Board of Canada
This short film depicts Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Former residents, their descendants, and some of the decision makers speak out and, with the help of archival photographs and films, tell the story of that painful relocation.

Remembering Africville: A source guide
Developed by the City of Halifax, this source guide provides contextual information about Africville and links to both primary and secondary sources of information about its history.

Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities in Nova Scotia
This virtual exhibit is based on the physical exhibit of the same title produced by the History Section of the Nova Scotia Museum in 1999/2000. It tells the story of over 3000 Black Loyalists who founded Birchtown and Tracadie in Nova Scotia after the American Revolution.

Slavery in Canada
This picture book is an informative resource on a little-known part of Canadian history. Webster, historian and hip-hop artist, and illustrator Dimani Mathieu Cassendo developed it collaboratively. The book highlights the contributions of people who have succeeded in eradicating legalized slavery in Canada. Published in June 2020 by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, it is part of UNESCO’s efforts to advance the goals of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024).

The Quest for Land and Freedom on Canada’s Western Prairies: Black Oklahomans in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905–1912
In the this article  from the Black Past website, Canadian independent historian Gail Arlene Ito discusses the arrival of Black emigrants from Oklahoma in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and how these Black pioneer settlers established communities.

Toronto District School Board African Heritage Month Guide 2020
TDSB offers an annual guide for African Heritage Month, which provides professional development and instructional resources for educators.  Instructional resources featured include the following:

Guides for 14 other heritages are also available.

Underground Railroad, Historica Canada
Underground Railroad is one of the acclaimed Heritage Minutes, which are one-minute films that portray exciting and important stories from Canada’s past.

International Black History Internet Resources

African American History and Culture in the United States
This teacher's guide by EDSITEment! provides lesson materials related to U.S. history, including the American Revolution, Reconstruction, World War II, and the civil rights movement; U.S. literature, including the works of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Lorraine Hansberry; and U.S. art and music, including the works of Jacob Lawrence and B. B. King.

Best of History Websites: African American History Web Sites
Best of History Websites is dedicated to providing quick, convenient, and reliable access to the best history-related online resources in a wide range of categories. It offers an exhaustive list of African American history websites.

The Black Curriculum
The Black Curriculum is a website published by a social enterprise founded in 2019 by young people to address the lack of Black British history in the UK curriculum. The site features a report as well as several resources related to Black history in the United Kingdom.

Black History
BlackHistory.com features unique stories and facts about Black history, culture, and accomplishments.  It profiles African Americans who made and/or are still making significant contributions to a variety of sectors, from technology to sports.

Black History Facts
This website provides an assortment of facts concerning various themes on Black history in the United States. There are facts about African Americans first coming to America,  great people in Black history, significant events in African American history, and the struggle for freedom and then for civil rights by Black Americans.

Black Past
The Black Past website is dedicated to providing reliable and accurate information on the history of African America and of people of African ancestry around the world. The intent of the website is to promote greater understanding through this knowledge to generate constructive change in local and global society. It offers an array of Black history resources that will be useful for teachers and learners.

A Brief History of Juneteenth: Including Resources for Teachers and Home School Parents
This article by David Childs discusses Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, the important African American holiday that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. The site also offers resources and lesson plans for teachers on the topic of Juneteenth.

Exploring Africa
Michigan State University developed this site for teachers and students wishing to explore Africa, African history, and contemporary issues.

Teaching African History and Cultures across the Curriculum
This article makes good points about what should be included in studies of Africa. The writer, Elsa Wiehe, says, “Africa is much more than pyramids, slavery, and colonialism, and incorporating deeper study of the continent has many benefits for students.” She provides four strategies to expand the curricular range across grade levels.

Anti-Racism Resources

Canadian and International Internet Resources

Black Lives Matter Protest

Black Lives Matter Protest, Vancouver May 31, 2020

Image source: GoToVan. “Black Lives Matter, Anti-racism rally at Vancouver Art Gallery.” Flickr. Accessed 11 Sept. 2020. Creative Commons License—Attribution, NonComercial 2.0 Generic.

Anti-Racism and Diversity Resources, Queen’s University, Faculty of Education
The resources listed were curated and recommended by faculty members with expertise in anti-racism, the Social Healing and Reconciliatory Education research group, and the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, as well as teacher candidates and the graduate student community at Queen’s.

Anti-racism Education in Canada: Best Practices
This 2013 report is from the Centre for Race and Culture. It provides a summary of best practices as well as examples of current initiatives in anti-racism education in several Canadian cities. The report contains information that is useful for any teacher, administrator, or individual interested in promoting equitable teaching and learning.

The Anti-Racist Educator
The Anti-Racist Educator is a Scottish collective of educational stakeholders (including students, teachers, parents, academics, and activists) who are dedicated to building an education system that is equitable, free from racial discrimination and inequity, and critically engaged with issues of power, identity, and privilege. The site offers a number of resources organized under the categories of Reading, Watching, Listening, and School Resources.

Anti-racism Resources, University of Waterloo
This web page provides a selected list of resources intended to help students, faculty, and staff at the University of Waterloo; however, many of the resources will be useful for educators in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system. The resources are intended to help develop a deeper understanding of anti-Black racism, racism toward Indigenous people, and racism toward people of colour, as well as to provide tools for community members to engage in anti-racism work.

Anti-racism Resources from Teacher Organizations
A number of teacher organizations offer anti-racism education guides and resource lists. Links to a selected sample of these resources follow.

Canadian Anti-racism Network
The Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society, the sponsor of this website, has organized some of the largest anti-racism and hate demonstrations in Canada, and their research and work have helped to eliminate hate groups. They have offered conferences and a wide variety of workshops on stopping racism and hate.

Canadian Race Relations Foundation
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation was established as part of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement. The website offers several resources related to anti-racism education including a Glossary of Terms and a series of resources on Education.

Racism No Way: Anti-racism Education for Australian Schools
Although developed for Australian Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, this website offers a wealth of anti-racism lessons and resources for Grades 3 to 12 and anti-prejudice/anti-bias lessons and resources for Kindergarten to Grade 2. The site also features a good discussion about understanding racism and about cyber-racism. The Get Involved section of the website promotes student action and includes a means for students to make a pledge to anti-racism/anti-prejudice action.

Resources for Anti-racism Education
Developed by Rachel Wilson and published by Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC) in June 2020, this annotated list of anti-racism resources for adults and children includes books, podcasts, videos, and resources.

Show Racism the Red Card
This website is a good example of how sports themes and resources may be used to challenge racism in schools and society. Show Racism the Red Card is the United Kingdom’s largest anti-racism educational charity. It was established in January 1996 by then Newcastle United goalkeeper Shaka Hislop after he experienced a number of racist incidents as a football player. The organization produces educational resources to challenge misconceptions, stereotypes, and negative attitudes in society related to racial and other forms of diversity. Their educational films feature a range of professional football players, and address a range of issues surrounding racism to help teachers and other training professionals deliver training in their schools and workplaces. Each film is supported by an education pack, which contains lesson plans and activities for all ages.

Teaching for Diversity
This site for Kindergarten to Grade 12 educators across Canada provides resources and strategies to teach for and about diversity, with a specific focus on ethnic and cultural diversity, including an overview and history of ethnic diversity in Canada, a framework of diversity education, myths and misconceptions, resources, research, and examples of multicultural children’s literature.

Teaching Tolerance
The Teaching Tolerance website provides free resources to Kindergarten to Grade 12 educators. The materials and resources are provided to help supplement the curriculum, inform teacher practices, and create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued, and welcome participants.

Teaching Tolerance emphasizes social justice and anti-bias education. The anti-bias approach motivates and supports children and young people to challenge prejudice and racism, and to help them learn how to be agents of positive and progressive change in their own lives.

The materials and resources provided are organized into three categories: Classroom Resources, Professional Development, and Magazine and Publications. The site also has a Learning Plan Builder that is based on the four domains of the Social Justice Standards (identity, diversity, justice, and action), which allows the user to select meaningful student texts, and choose how they teach them and how they will assess student learning.

Voices into Action
Developed for Canadian secondary schools, this resource helps students explore all subjects and issues related to racism, social justice, and human rights by learning from history to create a better tomorrow. This free online educational program provides teachers with resources needed to teach their students about human rights while meeting requirements of Canadian secondary school curricula. Teachers may register free of charge to access teaching tools, lesson plans, and assessment materials.

Books on Anti-racism Education

Black Cop: My 36 Years in Police Work, and My Career-Ending Experiences with Official Racism by Calvin Lawrence
Calvin Lawrence recounts his difficult and painful experiences and reflections as a police officer, first with the Halifax Police Department and later with the RCMP. From the beginning, fellow African Canadians accused Lawrence of selling out, while White citizens questioned whether a Black person could handle the job. Lawrence shares his journey—how he learned to navigate as a beat cop, and to deal with racism in the community and, most significantly, in the police force.

Black Lives Matter Protest

Monica Stothers (now Chertok) made Manitoba history when she became the first black woman to join the Winnipeg Police Department. When she attended the Winnipeg police academy, from which she graduated in 1988, Monica felt a great deal of pressure to succeed. She knew that by receiving a police badge she would open the door for other Black and marginalized women to achieve the same goal. Stothers served for 25 years as a police officer, rising to the rank of sergeant and serving as the Public Information Officer for the police force before retiring. In 2008, she was awarded the Police Exemplary Service Medal by the Governor General of Canada.

Image from Weichert
Image used with permission.

BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom by Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi
In the post–Black Lives Matter world, the authors explore the systemic and structural racism Blacks experience in Canada, arguing that it is the underlying ideology or thinking that needs to be challenged, and that today’s artists, theorists, and activists are the people doing that challenging. They question Canada’s recurring sense of “surprise” at the Black presence in the country, both in the past and in the present. They argue that this sense of surprise is a deliberate construction, which is not only very inaccurate, but is also central to the country’s continued origin myths and to the sustaining centrality of White power. While BlackLife is a relatively short book, it is a very important and meaningful critique of race and racism in contemporary Canada.

Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation by Yves Engler
Yves Engler provides analyses of past and present Canadian foreign policy and challenges the myth of Canadian benevolence. In this book, he documents Canadian involvement in a number of historical events including the transatlantic slave trade, the “scramble for Africa,” and European colonialism. He reveals Ottawa’s opposition to anticolonial struggles, its support for apartheid South Africa and Idi Amin’s coup, and its role in ousting independence leaders Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nikrumah.

Last Steps to Freedom: The Evolution of Canadian Racism by John Boyko
The author argues that to truly understand Canada, one must understand racism, as Canada was born and grew as a racist state. Canadians look honestly at their collective past, admit the mistakes, atone for injustices committed, and celebrate the progress achieved to date. The book is organized chronologically, by region, and by ethnic group, with the experiences of Chinese, Ukrainian, Jewish, Japanese, Black, and Indigenous Canadians all being discussed. For each group, their early activities and contributions are explored, and the systemic racism they experienced and fought against is discussed. The author highlights and celebrates the contributions of many Canadians who are mostly absent from Canadian history books such as Viola Desmond, Big Bear, Ivan Pylipiw, and others.

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard
Robyn Maynard provides a comprehensive account of nearly 400 years of what she calls “state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punishment of Black lives in Canada.” Looking beyond Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives tracks the violent realities of anti-Black racism from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms, and beyond. Maynard highlights that, despite continued and forceful Black resistance, the legacy of racism continues to perpetuate a number of inequities, such as contemporary Black poverty and unemployment, racial profiling, law enforcement violence, incarceration, immigration detention, deportation, exploitative migrant labour practices, disproportionate child removal, and low graduation rates.

Racial Profiling in Canada: Challenging the Myth of "a Few Bad Apples" by Carol Tator and Frances Henry
The authors address the meaning and nature of racial profiling, a form of systemic discrimination, in Canada as it is practised by police forces but also by many other social institutions. They provide a theoretical framework from which they examine racial profiling from a number of perspectives and in a variety of contexts, analyzing the discourses of the media, police officials, politicians, civil servants, judges, and other public authorities to reveal how those in power communicate and produce the existing racialized ideologies and social relations of inequity through their common interactions.

Power, Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education: A Critical Reader edited by George J. Sefa Dei and Agnes Calliste, with the assistance of Margarida Aguiar
The book addresses questions of anti-racism and its connections with diversity in a variety of educational settings and with respect to school practices. The focus is on systems, structures, and relations of domination, emphasizing the racist, classist, and sexist constructions of reality that serve as dominant paradigms for addressing and interpreting lives and historical realities. The contributors argue that anti-racist concerns with diversity are meaningful and helpful only if they contribute to an understanding of difference within contexts of social domination.

Reena Virk: Critical Perspectives on a Canadian Murder edited by Mythili Rajiva and Sheila Batacharya
On November 14, 1997, Reena Virk, a 14-year-old South Asian student, was murdered by a group of her acquaintances in British Columbia. This book describes the court cases that spanned 12 years and relevant contextual information, which was left out of media coverage. The essays look critically at the Reena Virk case, dealing with the intersectionality of race, gender, class, age, and sexuality as reflected in her life and death. The two editors and most of the book’s contributors are South Asian women, and their perspectives challenge the accounts of the Reena Virk case that were written by primarily White journalists.

The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole
Desmond Cole is a Canadian journalist, activist, writer, and broadcaster. This book builds on a cover story he did for Toronto Life in 2015, detailing his personal experiences with racial profiling by police and other issues. CBC produced a documentary by the same title leading up to the publication of this book. CBC Curio Adobe PDF offers teachers a viewing and discussion guide for the film. The book follows his experiences, month-by-month, for the year of 2017, providing a comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality in Canada. It is a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a powerful tool to shatter the all-too-common complacency of many White Canadians.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
In this book, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo discusses the phenomenon of White fragility and explains racism as a widespread practice of all White people, not just “bad people.” White fragility refers to the defensive moves that White people make when challenged racially. It is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviours including argumentation and silence. DiAngelo argues that these behaviours serve to reinstate White racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful inter-racial dialogue. The book offers an in-depth exploration of how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what one can do to engage more constructively.

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Contact

For comments, suggestions, or corrections to the above material, please contact:

Tony Tavares
Diversity Education Consultant
Phone: 204-945-6879
Email: tony.tavares@gov.mb.ca